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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2763

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (13:44): Surprise, surprise, the Abbott government is divided again. Already cracks are appearing in the Abbott government's ranks, this time on the food and grocery code of conduct. Consultation on the code of conduct began four years ago and it concluded with the tabling of the code in the federal parliament on 2 March, just a couple of weeks ago. Almost immediately, we saw the cracks appear with members of the Nationals pushing for a Senate inquiry and going so far as to say that the code was valueless—in fact, worse than no code at all.

The time for disagreement on policy as important as this is before you table it. In fact, it is before you announce it let alone before you put it in the parliament. Governments have resources to do the work, to get it right, to consult with their colleagues—and there are not that many of them—and get agreement before they take the step of taking it out and telling business that this will be the way it is.

A government member: And you're so good at it!

Ms OWENS: It is not about us anymore. The government is in charge, and it is about time the government considered its own quality of work and stopped bagging us incessantly. All this week we have seen the Minister for Small Business come to this dispatch box and suggest it would be the Labor Party that brought this code undone. He should turn around and look at his own backbench, because that is where the disagreement is. He has had over a year—a year and a half—to get this consultation right, and he could not get it right within his own ranks let alone within this industry as a whole. Please get your act together. The uncertainty is killing people.